Mabini and I

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Apolinario Mabini and I share the same birth date, July 23.

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He was the country’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs. But unlike him, I held no official government position — but in my best capacities as an ordinary citizen, practiced diplomacy and promoted the country’s best interests when abroad.

Diplomacy is defined as the art, the skill, the profession, or the activity of managing international relations. It is the actual implementation of foreign policy. Commonly, it is the tactful dealing with people in a sensitive way. There generally are different forms, types, classes, methods, and tracks of diplomacy. I will only mention the most common two, the Track I and Track II types.

Track I Diplomacy, or Official Diplomacy, is the formal application of diplomacy at the State to State, or Government to Government level. Here, officially practiced protocols are followed. Track II Diplomacy is the unofficial form where non-governmental organizations, individuals, and other non-state agencies play the role of the state in promoting goodwill, and bridging the gap of understanding between and among nations. This is commonly known as People-to-People.

I have been practicing Track II Diplomacy for two decades now. I am very fortunate to have been involved in international organizations ever since I was in college. Through the programs of AIESEC, L’Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, together with like-minded and like-hearted colleagues, we represented our nation in international meetings, conferences, congresses and conventions proudly. Through this 100% student run organization, I was able to emblematize our flag in countries like Japan, Indonesia, the United States, France, India, and China.

I am again blessed to have actively participated in the programs of JCI, the Junior Chamber International. I was also favoured to lead and transform the organization as its 54th National President, thus having international experiences in countries like Taiwan, Spain, Denmark, Bangladesh, France, Malaysia, different parts of Japan; Sendai, Fukuoka, Tokyo, &Nagano, different parts of China; Hong Kong & Macau, and in several occasions in the United States of America; Hawaii, Nevada, California, and New York, It was also thru this organization that I represented the country in a summit at the United Nations for the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

All these travels gave me an in-depth understanding about international relations, the “How” are we viewed and perceived from the lenses abroad, the “What” are the qualities the international community admire and despise in and about the Filipino, and the “Why” we are treated the way we are treated. All these travels have given me the rare chance to listen to the narrations of foreign nationals about our countrymen and country, have given me the rare chance to listen to the stories of both good and bad by our “Kababayans,” and have given me the rare chance to witness testimonies about our beloved republic. All these painted a very colorful picture of the Philippines for me that I alone could have never imagined without first hand travel and inter action with our brothers and sisters in other foreign nations.

I believe that every citizen of this country can be a partner in the improvement of our relations to the international community. Every citizen of this country can also do the opposite.

I believe that one single statement by any citizen can cause a rippling effect that could foster better international camaraderie. And one single statement by any citizen can also cause a rippling effect that could lead to the cutting of ties with another country.

The generation now is luckier than the generation when Apolinario Mabini practiced diplomacy. To get their message across, that generation had to hand write letters on parchment, sealed in wax, and then delivered by foot or by horse. A simple message could take months to be responded to, and at times, might not even get there.

The generation now is luckier than my generation when we practiced diplomacy. To get our messages across, we had to make long distance or international calls and wait for the operators to call back before we get the chance to communicate. Our letters would have to go thru air mail and would take days or weeks to be replied to.

The generation now is very well connected. In the age of all these inter-connective applications, electronic mail, smart phones, and laptops, with just one click, messages are read and replied to. You can send a photo, a document, a letter of instruction, an official greeting, or any of the social correspondences at an instant. We literally have the power to reinforce international friendships or break international relations at our finger tips.

We should all make use of this technology wisely. We should be aware at all times that everything we write, share, and react to, in and from the worldwide web can be viewed and read by all.

We are all diplomats of our respective countries. When we visit another sovereign nation, whatever action we do, may be viewed as a reflection of the actions of our people, likewise, whatever statement we make, may be construed as a common sentiment of our countrymen.

To quote the vizier to DjedkareIsesi, Ptah-Hotep, “Be a craftsman in speech that thou mayest be strong, for the strength of one is the tongue, and speech is mightier than all fighting.”

Author Jose B. Jimenez 3rd has a degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines and has completed two Executive Programs from Harvard University, first was in 2005 at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and second was in 2015 at the Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey. He is currently the Executive Director of the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines.

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